About 18 years ago on Christmas Eve, I was a young mother very painfully aware of the wide gap between my household reality and what I thought the ideal Christmas looked like—the ideal Christmas as portrayed on television and in magazines, the Christmas of beautiful decor, exquisite meals, and happy, smiling children. I had tried hard to finish wrapping and cleaning, all the while attempting to achieve some order and peace in my home as I cared for my three little sons, one of whom was a very cranky baby. There was a heavy feeling weighing me down that night—I was overwhelmed.

It was starting to get dark. I had the baby in the highchair, trying to feed him and get him settled. Dinnertime was fast approaching, and there was no candlelit table, no warm feast, nothing ready on the stove. Just then my husband, who had been out doing some last-minute shopping, walked into the kitchen and placed on the counter a bag of pancake mix, some frozen orange juice, and a package of sausage. In his own way, he was telling me that he knew I was at the end of my rope and, if worse came to worst, he was prepared to make our Christmas Eve dinner.

And so that Christmas Eve, our family shared breakfast. I don’t remember how it tasted, but I remember how it felt to be loved and understood. From then on, breakfast has always been our Christmas Eve fare. Our children probably don’t understand its significance; nevertheless, breakfast is our tradition and it stands fast.

The small act of service my husband performed for me that Christmas Eve so long ago may seem insignificant, but it taught me that through small and thoughtful acts in the midst of the mundane, our lives can be changed. Through our own and others’ selfless service, the Spirit can work in our hearts and Christ can enter our lives, which is what this season is all about. Perhaps decor sets the stage, but love and service are at the very heart of Christmas.

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  • Toni Hakes is a member of the Willow Canyon Eighth Ward, Sandy Utah East Stake.